Rönnberg, Varada, Cereda, Holden, Karjalainen or the great unknown from Canada?
Article - Rönnberg, Varada, Cereda, Holden, Karjalainen or the great unknown from Canada?
Four or five games in six days - the Spengler Cup is a unique competition with its own rules; a lesson even the host Davos had to learn in 2019. Four of six of this year’s Spengler Cup head coaches already know the tournament well from their own experience. And the fifth was recently voted best coach in Europe. Five head coaches, all with best prerequisites to win this year’s Spengler Cup.
Cereda - the defending champion
First of all, there is Luca Cereda, who will be looking to defend his title with Ambri-Piotta. The Leventina legend delivered the perfect tournament in 2022. After victories over Orebro, Helsinki, and Davos, the Ticinesi won in a shootout in the final game against the favoured Sparta Prague. The 42-year-old is already in his 7th year as bench boss for the defending champions and is participating in his third straight Spengler Cup. So he has plenty of experience for a still young head coach. And everyone at HC Ambri-Piotta still remembers what the greatest success in club history before the last turn of the calendar did for the club's environment.
Vaclav Varada - on a mission for the big anniversary
Vaclav Varada won the Spengler Cup and Swiss championship with Hockey Club Davos in the 2006-07 season. He desperately wants to repeat this double with HC Dynamo Pardubice, which - the same as the Spengler Cup itself - is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The Czechs gave everyone a first glimpse in August at the Dolomite Cup, which they not only won but also defeated HC Davos 5-1. And in the championship, too, the team currently sits atop the standings. The 100-year-old HC Dynamo Pardubice clearly aspires to win the same-aged Spengler Cup.
Josh Holden - the one who has the experience of no other
The new head coach of HC Davos, Josh Holden, undeniably brings the most Spengler Cup experience to the table. The Swiss-Canadian dual citizen has participated in 4 tournaments as a player, suiting up no less than 19 times. Since 2012 he can also call himself Spengler Cup champion. But Holden has already gathered experience as a coach too, in 2022 as an assistant coach for the Canadians. So Holden is one who knows the unique conditions at the Boxing Week tournament. And he likely needs no reminder that HCD has been waiting for another Spengler Cup title since 2011.
Petri Karjalainen - he who once started his career in Davos
Petri Karjalainen is not (yet) a big name in the head coaching business. But Kalpa’s young bench boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and brings something to the table that none of his competitors can - inside knowledge. In 2005, at the young age of 25, he began his coaching career in HCD’s youth development. What was supposed to be a short stint ended in a 3-year stay, in which Petri, as he was known to everyone, coached all of Davos’ youth teams and also worked as an assistant under Arno Del Curto on the first team. With the experience in Davos in his backpack, Karjalainen’s journey led through Finland and Russia to Kalpa’s U20 team. And last Spring the Finn took over the 1st team from Tommi Miettinen. It would be yet another very special story to go down in Spengler Cup history. And a splendid opportunity for Petri Karjalainen to make an immediate impact in the head coaching world.
Roger Rönnberg - the one who has already won everything else
Frolunda’s head coach, Roger Ronnberg, brings zero Spengler Cup experience to Davos. And yet many experts see him as the most experienced and successful head coach at this year’s tournament. In the last ten years Frolunda Gothenburg captured two Swedish national titles and, moreover, won the Champions Hockey League four times - making Frolunda Europe’s number 1 team of the past decade. Roger Ronnberg’s contribution to this success is undisputed. When the Swede made the move from U20 national team coach to head coach of Frolunda ten years ago, the club from Gothenburg’s Vastra Frolunda neighbourhood was nothing more than a big name. Together with chairman Mats Grauers, president Christian Lechtaler, and athletic director Fredrik Sjostrom, Ronnberg built a long-term concept which brought the traditional club back to the top of Sweden. One of Frolunda’s philosophies is that 40 to 50 percent of the 1st team players need to have come from their own youth development. On the current roster too, 13 players once played for Gothenburg’s U16, U18, or U20 teams - some may have left Frolunda only to return later on.
In 2016, Frolunda visited Davos for the semifinal of the Champions Hockey League. Still today, Ronnberg speaks of the special challenge posed by HCD’s ‘crazy’ transition game. A challenge they successfully navigated, as Ronnberg’s squad won 5-0. Now Frolunda wants to become the first Swedish team since 1994 to crown themself Spengler Cup champion.
The great unknown - the head coach of team Canada
Whether head coach number 6, the one of Team Canada, will already possess the knowledge surrounding the uniqueness of Davos’ tournament is not yet known. But regardless of who the person will be and regardless what resume he brings to the table, Canada is always a favourite to win the tournament title - especially after the unexpectedly early exit in the pre-semifinal of 2022’s edition.
Quelle: Spengler Cup-Onlineredaktion Foto: Roger Rönnberg von Frölunda Göteborg